Should You Be Sharpening Your Hooks More?

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Dr. Slick handheld diamond hook sharpener. Photo: Louis Cahill

Casting all day long, searching for that beast of a brown. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. I know that’s what it’s going to take if I want a decent shot at landing a big mature brown trout. I’m looking for a 20 plus-incher and they never come easy. And where I live, you’re lucky to get a few opportunities at legitimate wild brown trout of this caliber all year long. We’re approaching a bend that’s known for holding butter slabs and I present a perfect cast right against the deep undercut bank. The retrieve begins, strip strip, pause…, strip strip, pause. Without any warning my six-inch articulated sculpin gets slammed and my fly rod just about comes out of my hands. It’s just been devoured by something very big, and I think it’s what I’ve been looking for. I set the hook hard and my rod bends as the fish breaks the surface thrashing violently, shades of butter are spotted. “It’s a brown!” I yell, but two strips and two head shakes later my fly pulls loose and the beast swims away. My prized catch is lost. I strip in my fly and check my hook point and its dull as hell. The hook point is bent over. If only I would have taken the time to check my hook point after I jabbed into that log downstream, fifteen minutes ago. I’m sure I would have noticed immediately the poor condition of the hook point. Too late now, my dream fish is gone and I end the day failing to hook into another big brown, despite doing everything in my power to make up for my prior mistake. Have you made this poor decision before? You now know I sure as hell have. Don’t follow my lead on this one folks.

It’s easy to overlook the little things when we’re out fly fishing. Unfortunately, it’s usually the little things that turn out to bite us in the ass, keeping us from finding success. Not only that, but the importance of these little things in our fly fishing are rarely brought up in conversation. When streamer fishing, it’s critical to regularly check and sharpen your hooks throughout the day. They don’t penetrate nearly as easy as our tiny nymphs and dry flies do. Keeping a hook sharpener handy is a must, especially when you’re planning on streamer fishing. All it takes to dull a hook is bumping the rocks on the bottom of the river a few times during your retrieve or sticking it in wood, and your sharp hook will quickly become dull. I’ve learned my lesson and I’ve got a brand new hook sharpener in my pack. Get the habit of touching up your streamer hooks every now and then, and you’ll always be fishing a sharp hook.

To sharpen a fly with a hand held hook sharpener correctly, start by placing the hook point on the sharpener at a slight angle and smoothly run it down the hook sharpener towards you four or five times, keeping a steady angle. It’s just like how you run your kitchen cutlery knifes through those hand held knife sharpeners. Let the sharpener do the work and hit the back and sides of your hook for best results. Check the sharpness and repeat until your hook is sufficiently sharp. You’ll notice the Dr. Slick hook sharpener I’m using in the photo has a pre-defined hook groove. This works nicely, but I often prefer to use non-grooved surface of the hook sharpener as well. Figure out what works best for you.

Keep it Reel,

Come fish with us in the Bahamas!

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
www.ginkandgasoline.com
hookups@ginkandgasoline.com
 
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11 thoughts on “Should You Be Sharpening Your Hooks More?

  1. Great tip…I used to do alot of salt water fishing and would sharpen all of the hooks on every trip. After sharpening a hook, i would always cover the newly ground area with a black sharpee. This would let me know a very quick visual of what I had sharpend from the previous trip that didn’t need to be touched up versus the ones I needed to retouch again. It also prevented any rust from building up on a hook that I sharpened and exteneded the life of that lure.

  2. I fish for bass, largemouths, as much (maybe more) as I do for trout and having a sharp hook is critical in staying buttoned to them hard-lipped rascals. Keep it sharp and set it hard.

    Great reminder, Kent!

  3. I’ve noticed as a rule of thumb, the bigger the fish the more important it is to be sure of no flaws in tackle. That goes for sharp hooks and a another one that’s common with us fly fishers is knots in you leaders or tippet. A knot in your 8 lb tippet while fighting a wily 12 lb steely will result in a quick hook and unintentional release.

  4. Kent,
    I keep a sharpener on my waist pack and another in the boat bag. My Dad and I float an extremely rocky river, the North Branch Potomac. I am always sharpening (could be because I am a furniture maker ) but Dad not so much. To counter I have switched over to Gamakatsu B10S stinger hooks for most of our streamers. This hook ,plus the 07111 offset shank worm and 230411 finesse wide gap are really sharp and hold a point even after several rock grabs. The hooks are much more expensive than typical fly tying hooks but worth in fish to the dory! I also tye almost all streamer patterns to ride hook point up. Smallies and those other brown fish seem to love rocks
    the tug is the drug

  5. I keep a file in my pliers pouch on my hip at all times. It probably gets used more than the pliers do! Dull hooks = big disappointments.

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  8. Great tip, Kent. I sharpened all my saltwater hooks at the vise and checked them often and touched them up on the water, but the habit disappeared when I came to north Georgia and turned to trout fishing because tiny flies predominate for me these days. However, when I turn to streamers and large nymphs, it makes sense to sharpen and check the hooks, as you point out. Starting today I added a hook sharpener to my freshwater lanyard and to my tying table as well. As you know, it is easy to check the sharpness of the hook by seeing if it sticks in your thumbnail or just slides over the surface.

    Come see us, Kent. Our Tailwater is coming back…

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